Mike has saved for us the memories of his Dad, the late Cyril Hitchens who worked as relief signalman in no less than thirty three signal boxes from Probus to Penzance and including the Chacewater to Newquay branch to Trewerry, the Falmouth branch and the St Ives branch. Mikes notes which comprise well over thirty A4 pages have been added to the News and to the relevant sections of this web site. Many thanks for these memories Mike, a tribute to your father and a treasure to all.
The late Cyril Hitchens
Drump Lane Box was of the usual appearance and construction and was situated on the up side east of Redruth at M.P. 309. The external steps projected outwards at the Redruth end and the toilet was on the left hand side at the top of these steps. As well as the normal coal stove and oven there was an electric boiling ring and electric lighting. There was a 29 lever frame and a switch to enable the box to be switched out of circuit. When this happened all main line signals were left in the off position. There was a long refuge on the down side to accommodate the goods trains and also a long inside road running parallel to the refuge to enable shunting to be carried out without fouling the main line. There was also a crossover and lead from the up main to set back into the goods shed and it was possible to run an engine round if required. On the up side near the box was the aptly named "sunset siding" which served the bacon factory of C. T. Harris (Calne) Ltd. This was disconnected in the mid 1960s. It was quite a busy shift as all passing up and down local goods trains called to attach or detach wagons. All these movements had to take place without delaying mainline traffic.
All this complex shunting resulted in only one "incident" when I was working the box. Shunting was taking place in the yard when the down parcels arrived. It was the practice to back this train into the refuge tom allow the uninterrupted passage of the following passenger train. However, darkness and poor visibility resulted in the guard of the parcels mistaking a green light from a dummy in the yard for his own green signal so he waved his train back while the point was being pulled. This resulted in the derailment of a bogie parcels van and the blocking of the down main. Single line working had to be set up between Chacewater and Carn Brea Yard for the rest of the evening and the blockage was cleared during the night.
With all the points and signals being heavily used maintenance was important. One afternoon, during a lull in traffic, the lineman was working in the interlocking room under the box having put the WORKMAN DISCONNECTED tags on the levers not to be pulled. The regular signalman (not me!), after finishing his cup of tea, thought to himself, "I wonder if he's finished down there??" and tentatively began to pull one of the levers. Immediately he was greeted by the sound like the peal of a hundred church bells as all of the dismantled slides and connections fell onto the floor of the room below. The lineman was not amused and some words not normally found in the dictionary were used that day!
Goods traffic, in addition to that from the previously mentioned bacon factory, included cattle loaded from the cattle pens and meat from an adjacent slaughter house. This was loaded into insulated vans containing dry ice. During quiet evenings after normal working hours I remember seeing rats forming an orderly queue on a nearby wall before setting off to explore round the trucks. There were also regular arrivals of fruit vans for Rowe & Co. Some of the movements through the goods shed and in the back roads were done by gravity to simplify matters.
During my last years on the railway the layout was altered and progressively reduced. The goods shed became disused and all track, apart from the main lines was taken out of use in January 1986 and the box closed in the same month. Now the site of this once busy little yard is occupied by large road trucks.